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31st Aug 2021

Four-year-old Navan girl with additional needs denied nursing support for ECCE

Laura Grainger

“She fights every single day to survive so why should she have to fight for her basic right to education?”

A mother has vowed to fight for her child’s right to education after she was told her daughter with special needs would be unable to start Montessori school on Monday.

Tracy Carroll, from just outside Navan, Co Meath, was told her four-year-old daughter could not start in Munchkins Montessori in Boyerstown because nursing support hours had not been approved to assist the child in class.

Little Willow, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, had secured a place in the preschool under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme.

Under the scheme, the State pays participating preschools and daycare providers a certain amount per child in return for providing a free preschool service.

Tracy had worked with Munchkins Montessori to ensure funding for necessary equipment and support at the premises had been approved.

Yet she recently received a letter from the HSE Meath Disability Service that said her application for nursing support hours was refused due to an apparent failure to sign the application correctly.

The mum told The Irish Times that Enable Ireland submitted the application on her behalf, and that she was “furious” to have been made aware of the refusal just days before the start of term.

She said the system was discriminatory against children with special needs, adding that their parents have to complete long applications and beg for funding all so that their children could have an education.

She told the publication: “We had everything in place. ECCE approved the place for Willow and [owner] Fiona Rochford was only too delighted to take her at Munchkins Montessori where her older brother Noah went.

“I worked for months with the school and Aims getting everything in place that Willow needed and I was told the necessary paperwork was filed to facilitate Willow with the necessary 15 hours’ nursing support at the school.

“We were all so excited to see her start at Munchkins and her teacher Fiona had even bought a My Generation doll in a wheelchair to teach the other children about diversity and inclusion.

“Last Thursday afternoon after days of being sent from Billy to Jack in phone calls, I finally received an email to say that Willow wasn’t getting the hours… I was also told I needed a home care package in place to get the hours; I wasn’t told this before.”

Tracey added that her daughter, who is peg-fed and unable to talk, already fights in her everyday life so should not have to fight for access to education.

“Willow has a life-limiting condition,” she said. “She fights every single day to survive so why should she have to fight for her basic right to education?

“Other mums may just give up after constant battles for their child but this has put a fire in my belly.

“I will stop at nothing to get my child an education and be the voice for others against what I think is a system that is too complex, pen pushing and discriminatory against children with special needs.”

The HSE and Enable Ireland said that they could not comment on individual cases but would urgently follow up with the family.